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Article Sudan: Interim Constitutional Declaration Signed

(Oct. 9, 2019) On August 4, 2019, Sudanese media announced that the Transitional Military Council and an opposition movement known as the Coalition of Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) would officially sign an interim constitutional declaration. The 2019 Interim Constitutional Declaration, consisting of 15 chapters and 70 provisions, provides that a governing council will be established to rule the country during a three-year transitional period to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet. Additonally, the Declaration repeals the Transitional Constitution of 2005 and the constitutions of all Sudanese provinces.

Background on the Transitional Period

In April 2019, popular protests followed by a military coup ousted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. In July 2019, the military generals and civilian opposition leaders reached a power-sharing deal mediated by the African Union. The deal allows the establishment of a governing body, called the Sovereignty Council, to rule Sudan for the three-year transitional period.

Key Provisions of the Interim Constitutional Declaration

The 2019 Interim Constitutional Declaration  proclaims the principle of justice and equality for all Sudanese citizens, and states that all people, bodies, and associations, whether official or unofficial, are subject to the rule of law. The Declaration further stipulates that any war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of extrajudicial killing committed since June 1989 do not have a statute of limitation. (§§ 3, 5.)

Regarding the structure of the new government, the Declaration provides for three levels of government during the transitional period: the federal level, provincial level, and local level. It also establishes the three bodies of the transitional government, consisting of the Sovereignty Council, which replaces the position of the president; the cabinet; and the Legislative Council (the parliament), which has the power to pass legislation and engage in legislative oversight. (§§ 8, 9.)

According to the Declaration, the Sovereignty Council is to consist of 11 members, of whom five are civilians and five are members of the military. The civilian members of the Council are to be selected by the FFC, while the military members of the Council will be selected by the military. The 11th member of the Sovereignty Council is to be a civilian, selected by agreement between the Transitional Military Council and the FFC. (§ 10.)

The Declaration states that the cabinet is to be composed of the prime minister and 20 ministers. Members of the cabinet are to be appointed by the prime minister, except the ministers of defense and interior, who are to be nominated by the military. The prime minister is to be appointed by the Sovereignty Council and selected by the FFC. (§ 14.)

The cabinet has the right to ask the Sovereignty Council to declare a state of emergency. The declaration of a state of emergency is to be presented to the Transitional Legislative Council for approval within 15 days from the date of its declaration. (§ 39.)

The Transitional Legislative Council, as provided for in the Declaration, is an independent, legislative authority consisting of 300 members, 40% of whom must be female. The FFC will select 67% of the Legislative Council’s members, while the rest will come from other civilian political movements that are not associated with former President Al-Bashir. The Declaration stipulates that the Legislative Council has the right to enact laws, oversee the performance of the cabinet, approve the general budget, and ratify treaties. The Council must begin to exercise its responsibilities 90 days after the Interim Constitutional Declaration is signed. (§§ 23, 24.)

Regarding the judiciary, the Supreme Judicial Council selects the chief justice and justices of the Constitutional Court, which oversees the constitutionality of laws and regulations, protects rights and freedoms, and adjudicates constitutional disputes. (§§ 28, 30.)

The 2019 Interim Constitutional Declaration promotes an array of human rights principles. Under the Declaration, no one may be arrested, detained, or deprived of freedom without legal procedures defined by law, and all forms of torture and inhumane treatment are banned. Accused persons are guaranteed the right to a fair trial and to legal representation before the courts. Slavery and human trafficking are prohibited, and the state must guarantee the protection of women’s rights and gender equality. Other rights enshrined in the Declaration are the right to privacy, freedom of belief and worship, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, political participation, freedom of travel and residence, ownership, education, and good health care services, as well as the right of handicapped individuals to work and live with dignity, and the right of ethnic and cultural communities to practice their own traditions and exercise their beliefs and customs. (§§ 45–46, 48, 50–52, 54–66.)

Finally, the Declaration mandates that the Transitional Military Council must dissolve once the members of the Sovereignty Council have taken their constitutional oath, and that only the Sovereignty Council and the cabinet are authorized to represent the Republic of Sudan abroad. (§ 70.)

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